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[kuh-tas-truh-fiz-uh m] /kəˈtæs trəˌfɪz əm/
noun, Geology.
the doctrine that certain vast geological changes in the earth's history were caused by catastrophes rather than gradual evolutionary processes.
Origin of catastrophism
First recorded in 1865-70; catastrophe + -ism
Related forms
catastrophist, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for catastrophist


an old doctrine, now discarded, that the earth was created and has subsequently been shaped by sudden divine acts which have no logical connection with each other rather than by gradual evolutionary processes
Also called neo-catastrophism. a modern doctrine that the gradual evolutionary processes shaping the earth have been supplemented in the past by the effects of huge natural catastrophes Compare uniformitarianism, gradualism (sense 2)
Derived Forms
catastrophist, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for catastrophist



as a geological or biological theory, 1869, coined by Huxley from catastrophe + -ism.

By CATASTROPHISM I mean any form of geological speculation which, in order to account for the phenomena of geology, supposes the operation of forces different in their nature, or immeasurably different in power, from those which we at present see in action in the universe. [T.H. Huxley, "Address" to the Geological Society of London, Feb. 19, 1869]
Related: Catastrophist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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catastrophist in Culture
catastrophism [(kuh-tas-truh-fiz-uhm)]

A theory holding that changes in the Earth take place swiftly and irreversibly. (Contrast gradualism.)

Note: A belief in Noah's flood is one version of catastrophism.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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